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Starting at 15.45 CEST, you can follow the crucial time trial on

Photo: Sirotti






09.09.2015 @ 15:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom Dumoulin defied expectations by limiting his losses to almost nothing on the brutally steep Alba de Ermita climb and now finds himself in the perfect position in what could turn out to be the final big GC stage of the race. The 38.7km time trial in Burgos consists of long, straight, flat roads and is tailor-made for the biggest specialists who can push the big gears and offers the Dutchman a perfect chance to move into the race lead and claim a second stage win in the race.


The course

Last year a frustrated Chris Froome asked race director Javier Guillen why there was never a completely flat time trial in the Vuelta. Much to his delight, Guillen announced that he had already planned a flat TT around Burgos for the 2015 edition of the race and there is no doubt that stage 17 has been one of the drawcards for Froome. The Tour barely gave him any chance to showcase his TT skills so he was looking forward to putting his rouleur skills to good use on stage 17 which could be the final big GC day of the race. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to do so.


The time trial marks a bit of a change in recent Vuelta history. While the Giro has often had two time trials – of which one has often has been a mountain time trial – and the Tour has historically had more time trialling than the other two grand tours, the Spanish race has usually limited its time trialling to one stage in the second or the third week. The distance has usually been around the 40km mark and very often it has included a considerable amount of climbing without being a mountain time trial. This year the race again offers a single individual test at the usual point of the race and the distance is also within the usual range. However, it is the first really flat time trial since a relatively unknown Chris Froome surprisingly rode himself into the red jersey by finishing second behind Tony Martin in Salamanca in 2011.


At 38.7km, the course has the typical length of a Vuelta time trial and it is almost completely flat as the riders will stay between 850m and 995m above sea level for the entire stage that is held on the plains around the city of Burgos. The first part is slightly ascending and then there is a slightly descending part before the road levels out for the second half that just includes a very small climb late in the stage.


The first part is made up of a flat, almost rectangular circuit on the southeastern outskirts of the city but as usual, the organizers have included some kind of challenge in the end. This time the difficulty doesn’t come from the terrain though. Instead, the many turns will make for a highly technical finale that will be very dangerous if the roads are wet. Hence, the course can be split into two parts: one that is all about power and one that is more about technical skills. The final 5km include a small descent before the road levels out and the final two turns come in quick succession with around 300m to go.


Burgos regularly features on the course and has mostly been the scene of bunch sprints unless the strong winds in the area have ripped the race apart. It last hosted a stage in 2013 when a late climb was tougher than expected and opened the door for Bauke Mollema to make a late attack from the reduced peloton to narrowly hold off Edvald Boasson Hagen who won the bunch sprint for second. In 2010, Mark Cavendish beat Thor Hushovd in a bunch sprint while Oscar Freire was faster than Tom Boonen in 2008. In 2006, Egoi Martinez took a solo win from a breakaway while Alessandro Petacchi won a bunch sprint in 2005. He was also the fastest in 2004 and 2002 while Unai Etxebarria took a breakaway win in 2003. Of course the city always hosts stages of the Vuelta a Burgos too, most recently a few weeks ago when Astana crushed the opposition in a team time trial to put Luis Leon Sanchez into the race lead.





The weather

The Burgos region is known for its windy conditions and there is little doubt that the climbers are afraid of a windy day on the flats. Furthermore, many riders have crossed their fingers for dry conditions as rain will make the technical finale very dangerous.


Wednesday is forecasted to be a partly cloudy day, with more clouds set to appear in the afternoon. The temperature will reach a maximum of 25 degrees and there is no rain on the menu.


It will be the windiest day yet in the Spanish race but with a moderate wind blowing from a westerly direction, it could have been a lot worse. Hence, the riders will mainly have a tailwind in the first part and a head- or a cross-headwind as they return back to Burgos. In the technical finale, the wind will be coming from all directions. It will abate slightly towards the end of the stage which could be an advantage for the GC riders compared to the early starters.


The favourites

Tom Dumoulin continues to impress in this race. No one – not even himself or his team – expected him to ride for GC in his comeback race from injury. Nonetheless, he has now completed all the hard mountain stages without cracking and goes into the much easier third week just 1.51 behind Joaquim Rodriguez.


His performance in yesterday’s stage was one of the most remarkable yet. In stages 14 and 15, he had clearly shown small signs of fatigue and even his rivals expected him to lose more time on two of the hardest climbs of the race. However, he was apparently on a good day and decided to take more risks than he has done in the previous stages. Knowing that it was all or nothing, he decided not to go into TT mode as he had done in the previous stages and his approach paid off. Despite Astana doing their best to distance him already on the penultimate climb, they failed in their mission and even a strong climber like Mikel Landa couldn’t get of the Dutchman until very late in the race.


Dumoulin has been the centre of attention in the mountain stages for one very important reason. With Chris Froome out of the race, he is by far the best time triallist among the GC riders. With a relatively easy final week – only stage 20 can potentially do some real damage – the outcome of tomorrow’s time trial is very likely to shape the final GC and so the climbers knew that they had to distance Dumoulin as much as possible in Asturias. Of course they managed to put time into the Giant-Alpecin rider but Joaquim Rodriguez’ frustrated comments after yesterday’s stage clearly indicates that he had expected much more from the hard stages in the northern part of Spain. Based on his time trial prowess, there is no doubt that Dumoulin is now the favourite to win the race even though Fabio Aru should be able to defend himself on the flat roads in Burgos.


In the last few years, Rodriguez has done some very good time trials in the Vuelta a Espana but as said, this one is completely different. Even though the stage can be split into two parts, the first part will have the biggest impact on the outcome and as it is all about power, this is a day for the specialists. The Burgos plains can be extremely windy as they will make it tough for the tiny climbers who can potentially lose a lot of time – just recall how Rodriguez lost more than 6 minutes to stage winner Peter Velits in this area in 2010. Technical skills will be important in the finale where it will be possible to make up some time for riders that excel in turns but it won’t be enough to make up what has been lost in the power sections. This course definitely doesn’t do the climber many favours.


Traditionally time trials late in a grand tour are usually dominated by the GC riders. However, what characterizes the main riders in this year’s race is the fact that only Dumoulin is a real specialist. The rest of the top riders are mainly climbers and they will suffer on this kind of course. Hence, we expect the stage win to be decided between Dumoulin and some of the big specialists who start relatively early while the final part of the stage will mostly be about the GC.


On paper, Tom Dumoulin is the best time triallist in this race. Over the last few years, he has gradually approached Tony Martin and he is no longer far behind the big German. Last year he was second behind the former world champion on numerous occasions, including in the long time trial late in the Tour, and he was third behind Bradley Wiggins and Martin at the World Championships. Usually, only Martin, Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara can beat him in this kind of long time trial but as none of them are present in Spain, he would usually be the outstanding favourite.


However, things are a bit different this time. Dumoulin has proved that he can do good time trials late in grand tours but he has never done a TT after weeks of going full gas for GC every day. There is no doubt that he is much more fatigued than he was when he finished second in the Tour TT last year. On the other hand, it is no coincidence that the GC riders usually dominate the late time trials in grand tours as they have a better ability to recover. Dumoulin has proved that he has the recovery of a grand tour rider and so it may actually be an advantage for him that the stage comes at this late point, at least when it comes to the battle for the stage win.


Usually, Dumoulin prefers hillier courses but in the fight for the GC, this course is definitely to his advantage. Furthermore, the big specialists who can beat him on a completely flat course are not present and so he has to be the favourite to win the stage. The final part is very technical but this should be no disadvantage for him as he is technically very good and has a strong acceleration to tackle the many turns in the second part. Furthermore, the weather may benefit the late starters slightly and so Dumoulin must be the favourite to win the stage.


The only rider who can realistically challenge Dumoulin, is Vasil Kiryienka. The Belarusian is known as one of the strongest domestiques in the business but in the last few years he has also developed into one of the best time triallists. It all started when he was a surprise third at the 2012 World Championships and since then he has finished fourth in both 2013 and 2014. He always seems to come out of the Vuelta in very good condition and this has set him up for his Worlds achievements.


This year it seems to be no different. He was clearly not at his best in the early part of the race but in the last few stages he has been very strong. He was protecting Mikel Nieve for a very long time in yesterday’s stage before he decided to save energy for tomorrow’s important stage. He won the Giro time trial earlier this year and was in a class of his own at the European Games so there is no doubt that tomorrow’s stage is a huge goal. Sky are also chasing the win in the teams classification so a good ride from Kriyienka will be important.


Compared to Dumoulin, he should be a lot fresher as he has not gone full gas every day and he clearly saved energy yesterday. The long straights should suit him really well but the technical final part should be better for the Dutchman. Kiryienka has to make the difference in the first part and if he can do so, it will be no surprise if he actually manages to beat Dumoulin. We will be hugely surprised if the winner is not one of those two riders.


The rider who was closest to Kiryienka in the Giro time trial was Luis Leon Sanchez. The Spaniard has always been very inconsistent in his time trialling but he has a habit of doing good TTs late in grand tours – just recall how he was third in the final time trial of the 2012 Tour de France. He has numerous top 10 results in Vuelta TTs too.


Most importantly, Sanchez is clearly in excellent condition and he has not been at this level for several years. He has been riding with the best on the climbs for a very long time. He would have preferred a hillier course but the technical finale should suit him well. The main question is whether he will be allowed to full gas as the main goal for Astana is to win the race.


Nelson Oliveira was once a great time trial talent who rode strongly at the U23 Worlds. However, a number of health issues hampered his progress when he turned professional and he was unable to show his true level. That seemed to change last year where he returned to his best at the World Championships where he finished in the top 10. In this race, he has been in the form of his life and his impressive performances in the last few mountain stages prove that he is still fresh. The course doesn’t suit him perfectly but at this point it is mostly about condition and freshness.


Jurgen Van den Broeck has had a very unusual approach to this race. For the first in years, he is not riding for GC. Instead, he has used the race to prepare for the World TT Championships which is his big goal after he has suddenly rediscovered the TT legs that allowed him to become a Junior World Champion. He did outstanding TTs in both Romandie and the Giro and proved that he can also do well on a flat course when he beat all the specialists at the Belgian Championships. He was fifth on the flat course in Poland and with his grand tour credentials, he has the ability to recover at this point in a grand tour.


Stephen Cummings hopes to get selected for the World Championships time trial and so he is extremely motivated to do well in tomorrow’s stage. He is an excellent time triallist, especially on short, relatively flat courses, and most recently he was in the top 10 in the Tour de France TT. This one is a bit longer and may suit him less. He still hasn’t done really well over this distance but he just seems to get stronger and stronger in TTs. He is clearly in good condition after he has recovered from illness and he should be among the best in tomorrow’s stage.


Jerome Coppel was not at his best at the start of this race but he is gradually getting there. He has been riding strongly in breaks on a few occasions and has done nothing to hide that this stage is a big goal for him. He is the reigning French champion and has often done really well in Vuelta time trials. This course is too flat to suit him perfectly but with only a few big specialists at the start, he should be one of the best.


Niki Terpstra is not a real time trial specialist but he is a brutally strong rider who can do well in time trials. Earlier this year he won the Tour of Qatar time trial and so proved his strength in a flat course like this one. He is using this race to prepare for the Worlds and he has been riding strongly in terrain that doesn’t really suit him. The long flat roads should be good for a classics specialist like Terpstra and so he should be able to do well.


Trek have a pair of very good time triallists in Markel Irizar and Riccardo Zoidl and they will be keen on keeping the ball rolling for the successful American team. Especially we expect a good ride from Irizar who seems to be in very good condition at the moment. He was simply impressive when he worked on the front in stage 12 to set van Poppel up for the win and he has been very strong in late time trials in past grand tours. Zoidl was very strong earlier in the race but seems to be fading a bit. Furthermore, the course doesn’t suit him very well.


Orica-GreenEDGE always a few TT specialists on their roster and in this race it will be left to Damien Howson and Cameron Meyer to defend their honours. The former is a former U23 World Champion who has had a hard time since he turned professional. However, he did a very good TT in Poland and it seems that his legs have started to come around. Meyer is not a real specialist but he has done good TTs occasionally and he seems to be in relatively good condition


Cyril Lemoine and Jose Goncalves are not real specialists but they are both strong riders who can do good time trials. Most importantly, they are clearly in very good condition and their freshness should allow them to do well. Geraint Thomas and Maciej Bodnar are among the best time triallists in this field and especially the latter has been doing some good TTs in 2015. However, we are uncertain whether they have the freshness to really shine in tomorrow’s stage.


Finally, the battle for the GC deserves a mention. Usually, Dumoulin should be able to gain enough time to take the red jersey and we expect him to do so. Fabio Aru has improved a lot though and he recently did a very good time trial in Poland. If he can repeat that performance, he should be able to stay within striking distance and it won’t be completely impossible for him to move back into the lead. He Poland he lost 1.36 to Marcin Bialoblocki over 25km though and even though a TT in a grand tour is a different affair, it proves that it will be hard.


Rodriguez has also improved a lot in TTs but he still has a hard time on flat courses so his goal will be to stay ahead of Rafal Majka who is likely to be one of the winners. The Pole did some really good time trials in Switzerland and Romandie and even though this course is a lot flatter, he is one of the best time triallists among the GC riders. Usually, Alejandro Valverde should be able to gain some time but he is clearly tired so we don’t expect too much from him. The big losers will be Mikel Nieve and Esteban Chaves who are among the worst time triallists and are expect to lose a lot of time. Nairo Quintana has improved a lot and Louis Meintjes is not a bad time triallist so they should be able to defend themselves well.


This is our prediction of the top 10 after the stage:


1. Tom Dumoulin

2. Fabio Aru

3. Joaquim Rodriguez

4. Rafal Majka

5. Daniel Moreno

6. Nairo Quintana

7. Alejandro Valverde

8. Mikel Nieve

9. Esteban Chaves

10. Louis Meintjes


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Tom Dumoulin

Other winner candidates: Vasil Kiryienka, Luis Leon Sanchez

Outsiders: Nelson Oliveira, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Stephen Cummings, Jerome Coppel

Jokers: Niki Terpstra, Markel Irizar, Damien Howson, Cameron Meyer, Cyril Lemoine, Jose Goncalves, Geraint Thomas, Maciej Bodnar, Riccardo Zoidl, Dario Cataldo, Ruben Plaza



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